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4 More Yoga Myths and Yoga Truths Continued…

Have you ever heard any of these cues or statements about yoga and how it can benefit you? If so, you may be hearing a few yoga myths that permeate the yoga world. This is a continuation of a previous blog post with 4 yoga myths and truths. If you’ve already read that one, keep reading here to find out 4 more yoga myths and the reasons why these are myths and not truths.

Picture of someone doing downward facing dog with text overlaid that reads "4 Yoga Myths and 4 Yoga Truths Continued...".

Myth #1: Your Shin Should be Parallel to the Front of your Mat in Pigeon Pose

Another big NO here. Mine can’t do that, and from what I’ve seen from my teaching career, it’s pretty rare that someone has that kind of range of motion in their hips. Here’s what you should know:

  • Pigeon pose comes from having the ability to turn your leg bone open in your hip joint. Everyone’s body is built different, and sometimes people have hip joints that won’t allow this huge range of motion. So the ability to do this is somewhat anatomical, which means it won’t ever change no matter how much you stretch.
  • If you don’t have the flexibility or anatomical structure required to do a movement in your body, your body will try to find that flexibility elsewhere. In the case of pigeon pose, it often comes from twisting and tweaking your knee. Not good. Not worth it.

So, how should you be doing pigeon?

Have your leg more folded up. Have your foot closer to your pubic pose rather than thinking of paralleling the shin to the front of your mat.

If you want to learn more about this, make sure to check out my pigeon pose tutorial on YouTube:

Myth #2: Having Muscle Means You Can’t Be Flexible

FALSE. This is an Alvin Ailey dancer. Case in point:

This image is of an Alvin Ailey dancer who is wearing red pants and is not wearing a shirt and has a 6 pack and very muscular arms. One one side he's jumping in the air with his legs completely spread, and the other side of the picture he's balancing on his toes on one foot while the other leg is directly in line and in the air showing extreme flexibility.

Myth #3: Your Shoulder Blades Should Never Lift

When you reach up to a cabinet in your kitchen to grab a glass, are you aware of how your shoulder blade is moving? Probably not. Go ahead and do it without changing anything. Your shoulder blade lifted up didn’t it? Yes, unless you jammed your shoulder blades down your back, it did. So this is SUPPOSED to happen when our arms go above our head. Without getting into the nitty-gritty anatomy geeky stuff, stop forcing your body to do something it was built to do. If it feels better for your shoulder to lift, chances are it’s supposed to be doing that. Trust your body – it knows and will communicate to you when things are right or wrong.

Myth #4: “Practice and All is Coming”

I might get some backlash on this one, especially from those of you who practice Ashtanga Yoga. If you’re unfamiliar, this phrase was coined by Pattabhi Jois (the big Ashtanga Yoga honcho) in the context of practicing yoga.

Now, before everyone starts freaking out – sure, yes, practicing yoga will make you get better at yoga. That’s not what I’m arguing here.

I’m arguing the extreme that this quote has been taken to. Here are some examples of what I mean:

It Doesn’t Account for Anatomical and Structural Differences

Example #1: Downdog
Example #2: Pigeon Pose
  • If your hip socket is smaller, your leg probably won’t ever get parallel to the front of the front of your mat. Your thigh bone will hit your hip bone trying to do so and it probably won’t feel great.
Example #3: Splits
  • Same ideas a pigeon pose. If your hip socket doesn’t have the room in it for your thigh bone to move completely forwards and back, front splits probably aren’t in the cards for you.

And all of this is completely OK and should be normalized in yoga. Your body is not mine or your neighbors, so why should your yoga practice look exactly the same? It should not.

So those are my 4 yoga myths. Here are some questions for you – drop me a comment with your answers:

  1. Do you have any others you think belong on this list?
  2. Not sure about a cue you heard in class?
  3. Anything unclear?

Stretching and Pain – What’s the Difference?

Sometimes it can be tough to know if you’re feeling the “right” thing in a yoga class. I’ve been asked a few times if the place a student is feeling the stretch is correct. Here are a few signs to look for if you’re not sure if you’re feeling a stretch in the right place and how to tell the difference between stretching and pain.

Picture of someone stretching with text overlayed that says How to Tell the Difference Between Stretching and Pain.

For a lot of people, especially those who are on the more flexible side, it can be really challenging to figure out what exactly is going on in your body. I myself have been guilty of this. When I first started practicing yoga I would come into a low lunge with the back knee down and lean my hips as far forwards as I could. This was the only way I could actually feel anything in this pose, but I later learned that what I was feeling wasn’t exactly a stretching sensation in the right place.

It can be pretty common for people to feel like they need to go to the absolute extreme in order to feel something, especially if the person leans more on the flexible side, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I started to feel something around my front hip, and thought “well that’s what I should be feeling.” Fast forward a few years later to me learning about the body and I realize this was not a muscular stretch that I was feeling. Why? 

Because in general, you want to feel stretches in the “belly”, or center, of the muscle.

So in this stretch, I would have ideally felt it more in the center of the front of my thigh – not closer to the hip where I had been feeling it.

If this is confusing, don’t worry. Here are a few simple bullet points to look for when you’re practicing yoga to make sure you’re feeling a stretch and not pain:

  • Make sure the feeling you’re feeling is in the center of the muscle – not closer to a joint. So in a forward fold, try to feel it in the center of your back thigh – not close to the knee – not close to your butt. 
    • Note: If you don’t feel it here, adjust your position and get creative and explorative to try to find a place where you do feel it in the center of the muscle. This might mean engaging the muscle more, or backing out of the stretch even.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. Are you feeling something sharp? This is pain.
  2. Are you feeling something pinch? This is pain.
  3. Is the feeling dull or achy? This could also be pain.

Ultimately a stretch should feel good. It can feel intense, but it should ultimately feel good. That is the main difference between stretching and pain.

And I’ll leave with a question for you: What poses are you not quite sure that you’re feeling the right thing? How can you change what you’re doing and get explorative in your practice to figure out what works best for your body? 

Drop me your answers in the comments below, and if there’s a pose you’re not sure how to alter let me know as well!

Should You Let Your Knees Go Past Your Ankles?

Should you let your knees go past your ankles? What about if you have an injured knee?

I posted this tweet on my Instagram a few weeks ago, and boy did I hear a lot of opinions on the matter

A lot of people were upset by this because their doctors have told them not to let this happen because of their knee injuries, so I’m going to cut this off at the pass before diving deeper into this subject, and say this tweet was NOT about you if you have knee injuries. This was a post meant for people with healthy knees, who have heard this cue in yoga because it is a very common cue for yoga teachers, which in my opinion creates a fear around this action that is just unnecessary because it’s totally safe to let your knees go past your ankles.

SO now that that’s out of the way – I want to talk about this for both healthy knees and knees with pain.

Again, if your doctor has told you to avoid letting your knees go past your ankles, then listen to your doctor. I am in no way suggesting your doctor is wrong.

That being said, it’s not fair to generalize and say that everyone with knee injuries needs to avoid this movement. That’s not taking into consideration that everyone has their own individual and unique experience. What is safe for one person may be unsafe for another, and vice versa. So I personally wouldn’t even assume that this is an unsafe position for your knee even if you have knee injuries – UNLESS YOUR DOCTOR HAS SAID SO.

Let me give you an example. We’re gonna dive deep into skiing for a second, so just stick with me because I promise I’ll bring it back to you and your knees and body.

So here’s the deal. I actually have knee issues but only on my left side and only when I ski. My knee KILLS me when I ski. I’ve been skiing for 29 years, and in the last 5-10 it’s gotten so bad that I sometimes can’t walk directly afterwards. This is pretty much the only time it bothers me. And I will tell you why and how I have recently fixed it:

Skiing is basically just an elongated chair pose hold, and in chair pose your knees have to go forwards of your ankles. This movement doesn’t come from the knee – it comes from your ankle’s flexibility. And my ankle mobility sucks. So my knees don’t go forwards of my ankles very much, and because they’re SUPPOSED to do this when you ski, my body has to figure out a different place to find that movement. If you’re not a skiier, here’s a picture of what your body is supposed to look like:

When you turn, not only are your knees supposed to go even more past your ankles, but your foot/ankles have to move a bit in the boot to bring you into the turn. But like I said before, my ankle mobility is not good, so when I turn I can’t really do this from my ankles and feet, which is where my body is supposed to be finding the movement. So instead, my body has to find that movement from somewhere else. It compensates somewhere else because of the lack of movement in my ankle.

So where does my body pull the movement from? MY KNEE. Which is why it hurts when I ski.

SO – This is all to say, if my ankle mobility was better, then my knee would be able to go past my ankle and I would have the range of motion I needed to turn from my feet and ankles, and my knee wouldn’t be twisting a bit as I turn. How did I fix this recently? I put heel lifts in my shoes. Heel lifts will create more range of motion in your ankles and allow your knees to go forwards of your ankles more.

Heel lift for me = Increased ankle mobility = Decrease pain in my knee

This is a perfect example of how every single person’s body’s are different and we shouldn’t ever generalize anything.

Ok now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into this tweet and how this relates to YOU and yoga.

Do you struggle to get your heels down in a squat? If so, chances are it’s because of your ankle mobility – NOT your hip flexibility. So how do you fix this? Just like I did with skiing – LIFT YOUR HEELS! You can grab a blanket or towel and slide it under your heels to whatever height you need for your body to be able to sit down into a squat. Give it a try I promise it will help!

Your body was designed to let your knees go past your ankles. When you were born, this was something that was supposed to happen in your body. 

Unfortunately as we age, we develop certain movement patterns that may restrict this movement and we lose our ability to let our knees go forwards of our ankles. We sit a lot in the west, and use it or lose it is very real, and this is part of why we’ve, in general, lost this ability to let our knees go forwards of our ankles.

Think about children. They are usually so so flexible right? They just pop right into a squat. We were all born with this ability, but as we live our lives we fall, we get injured, we move, we develop movement habits that are specific to what we do in our lives.

Some of us maintain this flexibility in our hips and ankles because it’s been incorporated into our lives in some way as we grew older, but for a lot of people we lose it. This is why it disappears from our lives – not because we SHOULDN’T be doing it, but because we AREN’T doing it. And then things that require this movement start to get tougher. For example, in order to climb stairs, your knee needs to go forwards of your ankles to help you get up. 

Here’s a video of me letting my knees go past my ankles to climb stairs, and then trying to not let them go forwards. I almost fell backwards trying to keep them from going forwards.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this blog post:

Should you let your knees go past your ankles?

Yes – absolutely you should. If you have that ability and you don’t have pain then 100% you should be letting that happen.

Should you let your knees go past your ankles if you have a knee injury?

It depends. There is no right or wrong answer here because everyone’s pain and injuries are unique to them and their bodies and how they move and why they’re in pain.

I’m expecting some intense responses here, so drop me those comments and let me know what you think. And if you want to understand your body further and movements unique and specific to YOU, make sure you sign up for my FREE 30 minute one-on-one zoom session. It’s free for your first time working with me in a private session. I’ve dropped the link below to sign up for your time slot. Can’t wait to work with you and get you moving in a safe and individualized way 

Till next time,

Kate

4 Core Exercises To Try That Aren’t Crunches

If you’re looking to work on your core, but are sick and tired of crunches, I’m here to give you permission to toss the crunches out the window. If I’m being honest, crunches aren’t the most effective core exercise. Why? Because crunches really focus on targeting one of the MANY muscles that make up the core. 

If you want to build a strong and stable core, you need to be doing exercises that target the core on a whole. In this blog post I’m going to show you my 4 favorite core exercises to build a strong and stable core that ARE NOT CRUNCHES! But first, let’s talk about what muscles make up the core so we can understand what we’re doing in these poses:

Your core is made up of 

  • The transverse abdominus (TA)
  • Obliques
  • Diaphragm
  • Multifidus
  • Erector Spinae
  • Pelvic Floor
  • Rectus Abdominus

Here are some images of where all these muscles live inside our core:

Your rectus abdominis is the part of the core that everyone thinks of when they think of “abs.” It helps with posture, and is in charge of flexing your spine – so that’s why movements like crunches mainly target your RA. Your RA is also an important part of your core for bracing – so think of how your stomach feels in a plank pose – it helps you keep your spine straight and stable when doing something like a pushup – or a chaturanga!

Your TA is the part of your core that you want working most while MOVEMENT starts to happen. It helps with stability and control the movement of your lower spine. It’s also connected to a healthy pelvic floor, so if you’ve ever had children, the TA is an important part of the core to focus on after child birth.

Your Obliques are in charge of twists and side bends. They’re on the side of your core, and if you’ve ever seen a boxer, you’ve seen their obliques bulging out because of all of the twisting that happens in boxing. 

Your Diaphragm is what helps you breathe. I think often people don’t realize that this is a huge part of your core. If you’ve ever lifted heavy weights, you know that your diaphragmatic breathing is a HUGE component of being able to lift heavy. Why? Because it helps connect the muscles between your pelvic floor and diaphragm to work in unison to support and stabilize your spine. As you inhale with your diaphragm, it pushes into the pelvic floor. Your exhale lifts the pelvic floor up. This is al little confusing, but here’s a good visual which should help:

Video Credit: Instagram Account @pagethepa

Your multifidus and erector spinae live along your spine and helps with stability and posture. That’s right – your core is not just your front! It’s also your back! So if you think of how your body feels in a warrior 3 – if you can find your back part of your core it will help you stabilize the whole pose. No more rounded shoulders or rounded spine – finding these back muscles will help you balance in a pose like this.

SO what are better exercises for core strength than a crunch? I WILL TELL YOU! These are my top 4 exercises for core strength and stability because in general, they target the entire core. 

FOREARM PLANK

When done correctly, this is gonna hit literally all the muscles described above. Even the diaphragm! You need to find that bracing action in your core to keep your spine neutral and strong but you also need to breathe – that’s where the diaphragmatic breathing comes into play.

There are 2 other tricks to making sure you get the most bang for your buck out of this pose:

  • Make sure to keep your hips even with your shoulders – hips aren’t too high like a down dog, and you’re not dropping your hips like a backbend
  • Press the floor away from you with your forearms so that you don’t dump into your shoulders. 
  • Squeeze your glutes – this will create 3 zones of stability in your body – your glutes, core, and shoulders – and that will make it feel easier. Not easy – but easier. If you haven’t read my blog post about these three zones of stability click here to read it.

If this is really hard for you try widening your feet to wider than your hips. That wider base is going to make the pose a little bit more accessible. 

DEAD BUGS

This is a great place to try to work on TA activation. Think of pulling your belly button down towards the ground as if you’re sucking in your stomach, and then drag it up towards your rib cage. There will be a kind of hollowing out in your belly and strong deep activation in your core. Your TA lives behind your RA (those 6 pack abs) so it should feel very internal. 

Once you can do this WITHOUT movement, you can play with adding movement in. Lift one heel and then the other – if that goes well lift the whole foot – and then if that goes well and you can keep the TA activation, move one leg forwards and one arm back at the same time while keeping that pulling in and up in the belly button.

Forearm Side Plank Lifts

Like a forearm plank, these will target your whole core, but they’re really going to get your obliques. Make sure to press through the floor with your forearms so you don’t dump into your shoulder. Keep your hips up to start, and then lower them to the ground and back up again. Do this slow and with control – no plopping to the ground.

If this is tough for you, give it a try with your knees down like I do on my second side. You’ll still feel your core, you’ll still get to your obliques, but you’ll be able to build the strength and control to prepare you for doing it with your knees lifted eventually.

SALAMBASANA – LOCUST POSE

This one targets mainly that back body part of your core. Those erectors and multifidus muscles are in charge of backbending, but also work for stabilizing and good posture. Here are the things you need to really focus on to get the most out of this pose:

  • Take your tailbone towards the ground so your glutes (butt) engage
  • Think of reaching the crown of your head forwards and making space between each vertebrae as you lift.
  • I find that pointing my feet helps me find that extension and reach of the spine a bit more, but play around with this and see if it works for you too.
  • Make sure you’re not lifting with your neck here – we experience the world through our eyes, so often our head does a movement and it makes us think that the rest of our body is doing that movement. Try to let your head and neck lift in the same way that the rest of your spine is lifting – a nice gradual curve to the spine – no jagged edges or neck cranking!

The core is actually a pretty tough subject so if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a comment or shoot me an email at kateformanyoga@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you! 

Till next time,

Kate

My Yoga Story

I went to my first yoga class when I was a Research Assistant at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. I was working for a woman who focused on feminism in Egypt, and it was right before the Egyptian Revolution broke out in 2011.

My boss was over in Egypt just in time for the height of the revolution, which meant an internet blackout, and with it, no communication with me. When I was living in DC I hadn’t made a lot of friends and was pretty unhappy. Needless to say, between this and the lack of project assignments from my boss, I had plenty of free time! So I decided to try a complete beginner’s yoga class.

After taking the class, I got in my car to drive home and was convinced I had grown taller and was inches away from hitting the roof of my car with my head (I was not – I’m only 5’2 – but at the time the extra height felt so real!). My body felt better and for the first time in my life my head felt clear and like I could finally relax my brain. I started going to yoga 5 times a week after that and fell in love.

A year later I moved to NYC where I started my Master’s program at NYU for Middle Eastern Studies. During this 2 year Master’s program, I found myself skipping out on events in order to take yoga classes. I would do yoga 5-7 times a week and take breaks writing my thesis to practice yoga. (Pro Tip: do not try to do a crazy balancing pose in your tiny NYC apartment with a candle lit – I didn’t burn down my apartment but I did come close to knocking that candle over once!). When I graduated, I did some freelance work for a nonprofit and decided to get my yoga teacher certification.

Yoga got me through grad school. It got me through a time living in DC where I wasn’t myself and was very much living in my head trapped by my own thoughts. Since becoming a yoga teacher I’ve sought out people who might be going through similar experiences – I work in college and offices (and a ton of banks) – places where people sit all day and their jobs require a constant thinking and disconnection from their bodies. I want to help them the way my teachers have helped me and get them to start to become embodied – not purely intellectual – individuals.

I understand the pain of sitting at a computer for hours on end. I understand what it’s like to feel like you can’t turn off your brain. And I also understand how yoga can take away your physical aches and pains and help bring you into an embodied state and out of your head in such a way that you didn’t even know was a feeling that could exist.

If this sounds like you, let me help you discover a side of yourself you’ll never want to give up – a mentally relaxed and physically stronger version. Shoot me an email and we can talk about how to work together: kateformanyoga@gmail.com

How To Tell If Your Shoulders Are Tight

Often times the thing stopping us from nailing a pose isn’t always the thing we think it is 🧐

We think we don’t have enough flexibility in our spines to do a wheel pose, but really it’s about glute and hamstring strength and wrist and shoulder mobility. We think we don’t have the upper body strength to do a crow pose, but really it’s about your core strength and wrist mobility. Another example would be thinking your hamstrings are tight and that’s why down dog is hard, but in actuality it’s your shoulders.

These are just a few examples of when we think the thing that might be stopping us is one thing, but it ends up being something else. Of course, there are times when the thing stopping us is actually what we think, but for today’s blog post I want to teach you how to test for yourself what might be stopping you in a pose. As you can see from my examples, a very common culprit is shoulder mobility, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Here are 3 ways you can test the mobility of your shoulders so that you and your teacher can make an action plan around increasing shoulder mobility if this is affecting your practice. Do these in front of a mirror so you can actually see what’s going on:

1. Arms Only Line up with Cheek

This is probably the most obvious of my 3 examples, so that’s why we’re starting here. Go ahead and lift your arms up towards the ceiling. And then notice where your arms land. If your upper arms are in front of your shoulder, like next to your cheek, then this is a pretty good indication that your shoulders are very tight. Honestly, if this applies to you, you probably don’t need to bother checking number 2 and 3. But if your arms were more or less able to get closer to being in line with your ears or shoulders, move on to number 2 and 3.

2. Elbows Bending

Another indication of needing to improve shoulder mobility is if when you lift your arms towards the ceiling, if your elbows bend in order to do so. You can also check this in side bends, as it tends to happen there too. If you struggle to straighten your arm at the elbow when you reach your arm over your ear and side bend, then your shoulder mobility is pretty restricted and your body is trying to find the movement at other joints – in this case, at the elbow. If this isn’t you, then head on to number 3.

3. Ribs Sticking Out

This last one is a sneaky sneaky one that most people don’t even realize they’re doing. If you can get your wrists in line with your shoulders and your elbows do NOT bend doing so, but you still feel like your shoulders are tight, then I would bet this one applies to you:

Stand in front of a mirror with your side facing the mirror. Lift your arms by your ears. And then instead of looking at where your arms land, look at what your ribs are doing. Are you jutting your bottom ribs forwards at all? Are you in any kind of low back backbend? If so, this means your body is trying to find more range of motion in your arms and shoulders by pulling it from elsewhere because the shoulder movement is restricted. In the case of number 2 it’s your elbows, but in this case it’s your spine and ribs. This is SUCH a common thing that I see in people. In fact, I do it myself. 

So why does all of this matter for your yoga poses? Other than general joint health and wanting to be able to use your arms efficiently, a lack of range of motion in our shoulder joints can greatly affect our ability to do a pose. These issues become extremely apparent if you look at handstand, so we’re going to look at each of these within the context of handstand to learn why, though we can certainly go over it in terms of wheel, downdog, and more:

1. Arms Only Line Up with Cheek

If you think about what a handstand looks like, you have to be able to get your wrists to stack under your shoulders in order to go vertical. If your arms can’t get in line with your shoulders, then you won’t be able to get your hips and legs over your shoulders, and you’ll never actually be able to get up into the handstand.

2. Elbows Bending

Unless you are a CrossFit junkie, you are most likely not strong enough to support your weight fully on your hands, upside down, as if you’re doing pushups. If your elbows bend in a handstand, you’re effectively asking your body to do upside down pushups, which would be hard as hell, right? Keeping your elbows straight is going to give you the stability and access to strength in your arms to help hold you up vertically and upside down.

3. Ribs Jutting Out

If you’ve ever taken my class before, you’ve heard me say “pull your bottom ribs in” or “lift your front hip points up” in core exercises. This is because once you start to backbend and let your ribs jut out, you lose your core strength and in the case of handstand, you lose the integration of your shoulders, core, and pelvis/legs. If you ever want to balance, you need these 3 things to be integrated and your core needs to be able to be active. What’s more, is when you lose that core strength, and you start to backbend, it can sometimes bother people’s lower backs because there’s no support to the spine. Keeping the ribs in in a handstand will help you stabilize and support your spine in this position so none of that icky low back feeling happens to you.

SO if any of these apply to you, you’re probably thinking “ok cool, Kate, but WTF do I do about this?” Well, I’m offering 1 FREE 30 min one-on-one virtual Zoom sessions for people* who want to get more specific about their yoga practice and create strong, healthier, more flexible bodies they can depend on. Grab your free session with me here to work on you shoulder mobility, and anything else you’re curious about. It’s free. No commitments or CC necessary.

Till next week,

Kate

* Please note this offer is only valid for those individuals who have not taken a private yoga session with me before.

3 Tips For Anxiety Using Your Breath

With the holidays happening and COVID cases spiking, I’m sure anxiety is running high around the world, so I wanted to offer you 3 tips you can do ANYWHERE to manage anxiety and stress. These are tips you can do anytime – and no one will even know you’re doing them! 

1. Count Your Breath

This is super simple and something I like to do at night if I can’t sleep. You’ll inhale and think 1, exhale and think 2, inhale 3, exhale 4, and so on. You can either do this continuously, or you can choose a number to stop at and then repeat starting at 1 again. Personally I find that choosing a number to stop and then repeat keeps me more present and accountable because you have to be focused enough to realize you’ve hit that number. Otherwise the exercise starts to fall into the backdrop and thoughts start to creep in and you don’t realize you’re thinking until you’ve gotten to 50 and have no idea how you got there lol.

2. Counting Backwards Using a Phrase

This is an exercise I’ve taken from the Yoga Nidra practice. (If you’re not sure what yoga Nidra is – it’s basically a very guided meditation. If you’re interested in exploring it further I teach it every Tuesday night at 645pm EST on Zoom. You can sign up by clicking here)

The way this exercise works is you’ll choose a number, and then you begin counting backwards from that number. You’ll think the number on the inhales, and on the exhales you’ll think a phrase that is in the present tense as if it’s already happened. Often times I like to use the phrase “I am calm” but you can use others such as “I am happy” “I am healthy” “I am safe” etc. So for example, you would inhale and think 16, exhale and think I am calm. Inhale 15, exhale I am calm, and so on until you get down to 0. If you lose track you can start back over. 

This is one of my favorite exercises for dealing with anxiety and stress, and again I often will do it before going to sleep if I can’t get my brain to shut off.

3. Box Breathing

Basically the way box breathing works is you’ll inhale for the count of 4, hold it for the count of 4, and exhale for the count of 8. Repeat as much as you’d like. 

I find this has a pretty immediate calming effect on my nervous system, but everyone will respond differently. It took me a while to figure out how to inhale and exhale for these counts without things feeling strained or like I wasn’t able to breathe, so if you’re struggling with that at first it’s totally normal. Play around with how quickly or slowly you inhale and exhale.

One reason this one works is because when we make our exhales longer than our inhales it has an immediate affect on our nervous system to calm it down. 

According to a Healthline article another reason box breathing works is because “the slow holding of breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. An increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. This produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body.” 1

All you need for these is your breath, and like I said earlier, no one will even know you’re doing them! Give them a try and let me know in the comments below how it goes and which is your favorite!

Till next time,

Kate

1. https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing#benefits

Achy From Sitting at Work? Try These Desk Yoga Moves!

One of the most common requests I get is for more yoga moves to do during your workday, so I decided to create a blog post with a compilation of desk yoga, working from home, yoga moves and sequences so you can refer back to this throughout the week. I’ve broken down this blog post by the body part that needs that extra love and movement.

Back-Focus

Try to keep your core tight as you trace circles with your rib cage. Think of it going around your spine

Think of pulling your hips back in these downdogs with your hands on a chair for a nice stretch to your spine

Seated Cat/Cows – Find a backbend on your inhales and a rounded spine on your exhales

Make sure your chair or desk is pushed up against something so it doesn’t slide out from underneath you

Shoulders

Use your shoulder blades here to move your arms. Bring your shoulder blades together and apart and let your arms follow

This is great for both your wrists and your shoulders. When doing the shoulder exercises make sure you’re moving your shoulder blades FIRST and letting that movement guide the movement of your arms

Hips

Hip Flexors

Try not to lean back when doing this

Sequences

4 Restorative Yoga Poses to Battle Anxiety and Stress

With COVID numbers starting to rise again, I thought now might be a great time to share a few restorative yoga poses that will help you slow down and ease any anxiety or stress that shows up in the coming months. Not to mention, winter is on its way, and what better way to spend a cozy snowy winter day than laying around with blankets and bolsters? 

Here are 4 of my favorite restorative yoga poses to decrease stress and anxiety and to cozy up in and relax. Make sure to also head over here for a Spotify playlist to accompany this cozy, stress-reducing, restorative yoga practice!

Bananasana ~ 2-3 min. per side

Lay on your back and walk your legs and feet over to the right to start. Bring your arms above your head and walk them over to the right as well, creating a crescent shape in your body, or a banana, curved shape. 

If you’d like you can hold onto opposite elbows here, but if that doesn’t feel great on your shoulders then don’t worry about it.

Breath fully into the left side of your ribs – the side that has the big curve to it. Imagine you could expand each muscle in between each of the ribs of the rib cage with your inhales.

Repeat on your left side.

Modification for Shoulder Discomfort:

A lot of people don’t feel great with their arms over their heads in this way, so if this doesn’t feel great to you, try bending your elbows. If this still doesn’t feel great you can skip the arms, and just have the curve of your torso and your legs and that will be totally fine.

Child’s Pose Hugging a Bolster ~ 2-3 min.

Grab 2 yoga blocks and stack them like so:

Lay your bolster over the yoga blocks like so:

Widen your knees and come into a child’s pose with your torso laying on your bolster. Rest your head in whatever comfortable position you’d like and place your arms somewhere comfortable.

Supta Baddhokonasana ~ 10-20 min.

Grab your yoga blocks and put them in the same position as you did for the Child’s pose, and put your bolster on top in the same position.

If you have more than 2 yoga blocks, grab them – the more props for this the better the experience.

If you have a blanket you can fold it up and place it at the top like a pillow for your head like so:

Lay yourself back on the bolster. Bring your feet together and let your knees drop wide.

For a more supported prop-heavy setup:

Take 1 block under each knee or thigh on whatever height feels supportive and easeful. Try to take any effort out of the pose.

Grab a blanket and cozy up! If you have an eye pillow or an eye mask, this is the time to use it. 

Savasana: 5-10 min

Lay on your back and if you’d like to grab your blanket as a pillow go for it – or you could grab an actual pillow. Take your bolster and slide it under your knees or your thighs. Try both and see what feels best for you – everyone is different, but I prefer a bolster under my thighs rather than my knees. Others prefer their knees.

Grab your eye pillow and another blanket and settle in. Drop your jaw, relax your tongue and your throat. Relax your shoulders and feel the weight of your lower back on the ground.

I hope this short but sweet restorative yoga practice was everything you wanted in life and more! If you want more restorative classes like this, where I guide you through the poses, head over here to try a free week in my online yoga studio. When you do your trial week you get access to the pre-recorded classes, as well as 1 FREE live group zoom yoga class (members get all of this plus 4 free zoom group classes a month). No credit card required.

As always if you have any questions or any requests for a blog post feel free to shoot me an email at kateformanyoga@gmail.com or you can drop me a comment below!

Till next time,

Kate

6 Tips For Creating a Consistent At-Home Yoga Practice

If you’ve ever struggled with finding the motivation to practice yoga at home – I hear you! This blog is going to give you 6 actionable steps you can take to help you build the consistent yoga practice you’ve been wanting, but struggling to create. Forget motivation – we’re going to be talking about creating HABITS. Here are my 6 tips to create consistent habits that build your at home yoga practice.

1. Find a Trigger

What do I mean by this? One of the best ways to start a new habit is to pair it with something you always do. So for example, if I want to start a meditation practice before sleep, I might pair it with something I always do before sleep, like brush my teeth. So I’ll say to myself, “every night after I brush my teeth, I will meditate for 5 minutes.”

I’ve mentioned Jame’s Clear before (head to this blog post about fixing your posture and flexibility if you want more on him), but he is like the king of habit formation in my opinion. The formula he suggests for this is:

“When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

An additional element that helps cement this habit formation process is adding a time and location to where you will perform said habit. So the formula for this might look like:

“When situation X arises, I will perform response Y at [TIME] in [LOCATION]”

Basically the more specific you can be, the more likely you are to create and maintain this habit.

So within the context of starting or continuing a yoga practice, your sentence might look like this:

“When stress arises, I will do a child’s pose”

Sometimes just starting by doing 1 simple thing that takes up little time will lead you to continue to do more because it feels good and is helping. Often times starting is the hardest part.

If you want to be more specific like the second example, your sentence could look like:

“After breakfast, I will do 10 minutes of yoga at 8am every Monday Wednesday and Friday in my living room.”

James Clear explains why this is helpful in his book Atomic Habits (which if you haven’t read this yet, go out and get yourself a copy because it is amazing). He says, 

“Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course. We often say yes to little requests because we are not clear enough about what we need to be doing instead. When your dreams are vague, it’s easy to rationalize little exceptions all day long and never get around to the specific things you need to do to succeed.

2. Put it in Your Calendar

When we have an important meeting, we put it in our calendar so we don’t forget about it. We block that time off for the meeting and make it a priority. There’s no reason we can’t also do that with a yoga practice. If you really want to make it a priority, then put a time in your calendar and block that time off for yourself. You’re more likely to do it if it’s written down.

Adding to this idea, you could also create a habit calendar for yourself. I think most people like to check things off of to do lists – it gives us a sense of accomplishment, so you could create a similar thing with a habit calendar. Every day you do your yoga practice, give yourself a red X. Every day you were supposed to do your yoga practice but didn’t, give yourself a black circle. This is a good way of staying accountable and seeing how often you’re actually doing what you said you were going to do.

3. Make it Easy

This particular suggestion might not be easy for everyone depending on your living situation – this was only something I could implement during the pandemic as I’m no longer confined to my small NYC studio apartment. But the idea here is to make it easy for you to get on the mat and do some yoga.

So an example of this that I personally have used is that I leave my mat out and my props out. If I don’t have to organize anything to start, it makes it easier to get on the mat in the first place. But like I said before, I’m lucky to have the space to do this right now.

Another way I’ve been implementing this is with my physical therapy exercises. I haven’t put my bands away – I keep them next to my bed and at night before I get into bed I do my PT exercises. So this is incorporating #1 and #3. My trigger is getting into bed. My sentence is “Before I get into bed I will do my PT exercises” and then the bands are right there so I don’t have any excuses really.

Without space, you could do this – keep a yoga strap next to your bed and do a few leg stretches before bed. You may end up doing a whole practice because like I said earlier, starting is the hardest part.

4. Give Yourself a Reward

Want a new bag? Want a new shirt? Only buy it for yourself if you practice X amount of yoga this week. Give yourself a reward to look forward to and you’re more likely to step on your mat.

5. Implement the 2-Minute Rule

A suggestion that James Clear has in his book is to implement something he calls the 2 minute rule. Here’s what he says:

“Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big. When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon. The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use The Two-Minute Rule, which states ‘When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

How would you do this with yoga? He actually uses it as an example. He says

“Do 30 minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat”

He goes on to explain that “the idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. And…this is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.”

So if you’re like me and you live in a space that’s too small to keep your mat out, the 2 minute rule might be a good place for you to start. Make it a habit of taking your yoga mat out X days a week. Again, starting is the hardest part.

6. Join a Community

I personally think this is one of the best ways to stay consistent with something. This is why people struggle to practice yoga at home but have no problem going to a yoga studio. Being surrounded by people and being a part of a community is part of why people keep coming back to the same yoga studios (other than liking the teachers). Unfortunately because of COVID a lot of us don’t have that option, depending on what state or country you’re in.

That being said, I (and I’m sure other teachers) have started building these communities in our zoom classes. For me personally, I have had new students and old students meeting each other on zoom and getting to know people they never would have been introduced to because they practiced in different spaces. We’ve created a small community that looks forward to seeing each other and saying hi to one another – people who were total strangers before COVID. To be entirely honest, this community has been one of the best side effects of COVID and wasn’t something I expected to happen, but am unbelievably happy and proud of the community that’s been created in my zoom classes and in my online yoga studio.

If you can find a community that is warm and welcoming via zoom, then you’ll begin to look forward to seeing them every week. You’ll miss having them in class with you when they have something else going on, and it will feel similar to the community created inside yoga studios, which will all help you continue to come back and stay consistent.

If you want to join my community of wonderful humans of varying ages and experience, I would LOVE to have you. You can head over here to learn more about zoom group yoga classes, and over here to learn more about joining my virtual yoga studio.

So those are my suggestions! I hope you’ve found this helpful, and I’d love to hear from you either in the comments below or shoot me an email at kateformanyoga@gmail.com with any tips you’ve implemented to get yourself to stay consistent with your yoga practice at home. 

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions!

Till next time,

Kate